TEFL Wuhu

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This is how our TEFL graduates feel they have gained from their course, and how they plan to put into action what they learned:

J.P. - Russia said:
The country of our choice is Russia. We are currently teaching in Moscow and gained some experience and insight into the Russian culture. Teaching english here definitely does have its own challenges; as perhaps in every other country. Nevertheless, every day is exciting and interesting with unique questions, debates and issues to solve. There are various problems for learners of english in Russia. Differences in culture, the isolation for many years, and countless inaccessible villages in Russia do not need detailed explanation. Mistrust in a stranger, especially a foreigner, is one of the first problems to mention. It lies very deep inside the Russian culture to be sceptical and tongue in the cheek whenever a stranger is introduced. Russians simply do not trust the stranger. It takes time to break through this barrier and gain their trust. The situation in the classroom is the same. It may take several weeks before the students open up and lift the barrier of mistrust. This may lead to some problems, especially where the teacher is impatient and does not allow enough time to build relationships. However, when the students finally open up, respect and trust their teacher, the bond may develop into a very strong relationship and effective teaching. When a Russian begins to learn english, the first obstacle to overcome is learning a new alphabet. Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet with many different characters and meanings. The students need to learn basic writing and reading skills in order to learn english. It may take some time for the students to get used to, as there are major differences between some letters and sounds. Another problem is very poor english education in schools. Until recently, english was of very little importance in Russia. As a second language, children would rather learn German or french. During the last 10 years english became more popular. This created a big problem, as there are not enough skilled english teachers in the schools. As a result, the students are being taught a very low level of english. After school the students still do not have any ability to speak the language. More importantly, there are numerous language points taught incorrectly. Without exception, all of the Russian students we met, for instance, write the letter ‘r’ incorrectly. Instead they use a character from the Cyrillic alphabet. Spelling and pronunciation are also among the topics taught wrong in school. Students get confused with vowels such as a, i, e and y, as well as some consonants like g and j. Schoolchildren are being taught english in Russian, using Cyrillic characters to associate with Latin. Thus many aspects need to be re-learned when further english studies are undertaken. english and Russian sentence structures differ significantly. english has very strict rules regarding sentence structure, whereas Russian is more flexible. For example, english sentences must have a verb, but in Russian it is not a necessity. Word order in Russian is loose, therefore makes it very difficult to learn the correct word orders and structures in english. The difference in intonation also creates a problem for english learners. english question intonations are very different and often confuse Russian students. english learners also face phonology difficulties. There are many sounds that are different between Russian and english. Certain english sounds just do not exist in Russian. For example, Russian does not have ‘w’ and ‘th’ sounds. This creates difficulties to pronounce words such as ‘word’, ‘month’ etc. Students at all levels have issues with articles. Russian does not have articles; this new concept is very different and difficult for english learners. Often the wrong article is used, for example ‘the’ instead of ‘a’. Students also tend to overuse articles or omit them when they are indeed needed. One last aspect worth to mention is the very long summer holidays. Russians are very fond of their summer holidays and use them as effective as possible. This means that most people forget about work, stress, education and english. Many leave to visit nearby sunshine countries, while others spend their time at their summer houses. The long absent in english classes result in too little speaking practice, and often loss of newly learned vocabulary. There is however no fixed solution to this, except to enjoy the summer along your fellow students!